BASOTHO Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO) Chief Executive Officer, Robert Likhang, has called for a comprehensive small, micro and medium enterprise (SMME) policy to extricate Lesotho’s economy from its least developed status.
Mr Likhang, who made the remarks while addressing BEDCO tenants at the parastatal’s Sebaboleng offices on Tuesday, said the formulation of a ministry dedicated to SMMEs was a milestone worth celebrating. The Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing is headed by Thabiso Litšiba and came about following a split of the former Ministry of Trade, Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing.
The BEDCO boss said the new ministry would go a long way towards ensuring all SMMEs grow and are sustainable businesses.
“We agree that all governments are dependent on SMMEs. In the United States, about 60 percent of revenue for the fiscus is made by small businesses, while in neighbouring South Africa about 75 percent comes from SMMEs,” said Mr Likhang.
“We have also learned that big corporations’ engagement in the development of SMMEs goes a long way towards ensuring the development of a country’s economy. In South Africa today, the private sector has contributed M20 billion for SMMEs development in an effort to assist government.
“We need to have such initiatives here in Lesotho as dwindling government coffers cannot meet the need.”
He added that BEDCO’s push for the formulation of a SMMEs policy was part of efforts to diversify the sources of financing for SMMEs.
“We want to have a policy that eases the cost of doing business for all SMMEs. A policy that reduces taxes for SMMEs in their different categories and puts in place taxation regimes that do not result in the downfall of businesses but encourages their growth,” Mr Likhang said.
He also revealed that the parastatal had entered into a partnership with the Lesotho Revenue Authority and commercial banks to ensure they contribute towards the establishment of SMMEs.
“We are committed to work on different strategies to reduce the financial strain on small businesses in Lesotho and ensure their growth. However, what is central is an overarching policy that guarantees the development of SMMEs in the country,” Mr Likhang noted.
BEDCO, he said, was already in the process of finalising a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) aimed at assisting SMMEs to access infrastructure owned by the corporation among other issues the two agencies will collaborate on.
“We need to establish SMMEs parks. Such places would ideally have a commercial centre to attract customers, the small businesses park and an incubation centre for start-ups,” said Mr Likhang.
“If we were to receive the funds we need, we would prioritise turning around the BEDCO Sebaboleng premises and the BEDCO premises in Hlotse Leribe.”
He said just like the LNDC, BEDCO needed to also have factory shells for Basotho-owned enterprises to ensure there is a place for budding SMMEs upon the expiration of their stay in incubation centres.
“We need to see the incubation centres work in the strictest sense and the traffic moving through the incubation centres and the successful SMMEs moving out to the factory shells too.
“All this can only happen if we have a clear policy on how to run SMMEs and fund them adequately as a country.”